Every student in New Mexico deserves to feel safe and supported while pursuing their education. Yet, recent incidents of hazing, sexual abuse and the failure of schools to adequately address these issues have shaken our state. It’s time for action, which is why we introduced House Bill 225 to make hazing a crime and put necessary safeguards in place to protect students.
New Mexico stands as one of only six states without specific laws against hazing. This legislation aims to get our state off that list by holding offenders criminally accountable, establishing a reporting system beyond campus boundaries, and unifying efforts against hazing across all colleges and universities.
While recent headlines have brought collegiate hazing to the forefront, this issue has long been a concern. Students coming forward with reports of experiencing hazing and institutions failing to address it underscores the inadequacy of current policies. Nine of New Mexico’s public colleges and universities have campus policies that mention hazing specifically. However, the lack of consistency between policies and the fact that serious hazing incidents continue to occur shows that campus-level policies alone are not enough to deter violators and keep students safe.
This legislation addresses accountability and prevention by creating criminal penalties for both hazing and aggravated hazing, the latter being a fourth-degree felony for severe cases. Additionally, it criminalizes the failure of college officials to report hazing incidents, fostering a culture of accountability on campuses. Of the 44 states with anti-hazing laws, 34 states include specific criminal penalties for hazing acts.
To gauge the true scope of hazing in New Mexico, all higher education institutions will be required to report incidents annually, with data compiled at the state level. Furthermore, mandatory hazing prevention and reporting training will be implemented for all higher education employees.
Having a better understanding of hazing incidents statewide will go a long way toward stomping out hazing. While we don’t yet know the full extent of the problem in New Mexico, data from the National Hazing Prevention Consortium paints a stark picture: more than half of college students report experiencing hazing, with the majority occurring in athletics and Greek life. As many as 55% of students who participated in campus teams, clubs and organizations reported hazing. In athletics, that number was 74%, and in fraternities and sororities, the number was 73%. With statewide reporting, we can gain a better understanding of this issue and better address it.
Hazing incidents not only endanger students but also undermine the very mission of higher education. House Bill 225 directly targets areas where hazing thrives: athletics programs, fraternities, sororities and similar organizations.
To facilitate reporting, a $500,000 appropriation will fund a statewide online portal at the Higher Education Department. This platform will allow anonymous reporting and coordination with law enforcement.
This legislation represents a significant stride toward stomping out hazing in New Mexico. By establishing accountability, providing resources and requiring training, we can ensure the safety and well-being of every student across our state.
It’s time to stand united against hazing and safeguard the future of our students and our educational institutions. House Bill 225 is not just a bill; it’s a commitment to a safer, more supportive learning environment for all. Let’s make it a reality.